On Tuesday September 15th, Boulder city council will review a proposed ordinance to increase enforcement on housing occupancy limit violations, adding two city staff and raising fines for violations. But increased enforcement of the occupancy laws only serves to displace at-risk members of the community and reduce a substantial amount of the city’s affordable housing.
As the Denver Post reported in April, Colorado’s housing prices increased 9.8% over the past year, the fastest pace in the nation, but wages have not risen nearly as quickly. Higher prices continue to put stress on Boulder residents at lower income levels. Living in housing over occupancy is often a solution to reduce monthly rents; this policy further punishes people living in this condition who will now have increased risk of eviction and costly fines. The proposed changes target the economically vulnerable and disproportionately targets renters.
The occupancy limits themselves are arbitrary, and do not apply to families related by blood, marriage, or legal adoption. Occupancy enforcement limits people’s way of living rather than punishing a particular behavior. The city should not concern itself with the makeup of a home or family, but specifically address actual concerns raised — the real issues are parking, traffic, noise or trash violations.
While Boulder has stated housing goals of increasing affordable housing and reducing the city’s carbon footprint, increasing occupancy enforcement works directly against those goals. By best estimates, several thousand people in the city live over-occupied, who would have significantly increased costs if displaced from their current housing. And more people occupying a house can reduce the carbon footprint per capita, factoring in food, transportation, and energy costs: all part of the city’s stated goals.
I ask the city council to reconsider changes that will harm lower-income members of our community.
In July, I spoke on occupancy limits at Ignite Boulder.